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Berachos 59


QUESTION: The Gemara cites various opinions concerning what causes earthquakes (or, according to the Rashba, thunder): the tears of Hashem, Hashem clapping His hands, stamping His feet, or pushing with His feet under His throne.

How are we to understand this Gemara?

ANSWER: RABEINU CHANANEL explains that the Gemara is teaching that loud noises are expressions of Hashem dissatisfaction with the fact that the Jewish people are in exile. By causing these loud noises to occur, He is showing His frustration, as it were, with the fact that the Jewish people are still in exile. He wants to redeem them, but the time has not yet come.

The RASHBA adds that even though claps of thunder during storms seem to be no more than a natural occurrence, thunderclaps in the times of the Beis ha'Mikdash were very infrequent. Only nowadays are storms frequently accompanied by loud thunder, because, as the Gemara says, they are reminding us to straighten the crookedness in our hearts. This is similar to the phenomenon of a rainbow that comes after a storm, which is a sign that Hashem will not bring another flood upon the world even though He may not be pleased with man's actions. Even though it is a natural occurrence, it did not appear before the flood. Even now it does not appear when there are Tzadikim in the world, because Hashem does not want to destroy the world when there are Tzadikim (see RAMBAN, Bereishis 9:12).

The Gemara concludes that for lightning and thunder, one recites either blessing, "Oseh Ma'aseh Bereishis" or "she'Kocho u'Gevuraso Malei Olam."
(a) The MISHNAH BERURAH (OC 227:5) writes that the common practice is to recite "Oseh Ma'aseh Bereishis" on lightning, and "she'Kocho u'Gevuraso" on thunder, even though both blessings are applicable to both phenomena, as our Gemara concludes. However, because both blessings are applicable to both, if one sees lightning and hears thunder at the *same moment*, he recites only one blessing -- "Oseh Ma'aseh Bereishis" (if he recited "she'Kocho u'Gevuraso," he has also fulfilled his obligation).

(b) If one saw lightning but did not hear thunder, or heard thunder but did not see lightning, the Mishnah Berurah maintains that their respective blessings may still be recited (although there are various customs as to how to conduct oneself).

(c) One must recite the blessing within "Toch Kedai Dibur" (about two seconds) of seeing the lightning or hearing the thunder. If one delayed, then one may not recite the blessing until he sees lightning or hears thunder again. (Mishnah Berurah 227:12)

(d) If the storm clears up completely so that there are no clouds remaining in the sky, and then another storm comes, one recites the blessings again upon seeing lightning or hearing thunder, even on the same day (Mishnah Berurah 227:8). If the storm did not clear up completely, then one may not recite the blessing when seeing lightning or hearing thunder again on the same day; on a different day, though, he may recite the blessings.


The Gemara says that when one drinks wine and then drinks a second, better wine, he recites the blessing "ha'Tov v'ha'Meitiv." Ha'Tov v'ha'Meitiv is recited because when more wine, of better quality, is consumed, one expresses his praise to Hashem for the abundance of wine that He has given.

There are six conditions (SHULCHAN ARUCH OC 175 and Mishnah Berurah there) that must be fulfilled in order to recite this blessing:

(a) The second wine cannot be known to be worse than the first. That is, it has to have the possibility of being of equal or better quality; as long as one does not know for certain that it is worse than the first wine, he may recite the blessing (Shulchan Aruch OC 175:2). The reason is because the blessing is primarily a praise to Hashem for the abundance of wine, and not necessarily for a better wine. The Poskim add that if there is even a possibility that the second wine is completely sour, one may not recite ha'Tov v'ha'Meitiv (Mishnah Berurah 175:8).

(b) One must drink the wine with other people (even if they are one's own family). The others must drink from both wines along with him (although they do not have to drink at the same time that he does). (Shulchan Aruch 175:4, Mishnah Berurah 175:15)

In addition, the Sephardic Poskim require that a minimum amount of wine be consumed. According to the KAF HA'CHAIM (175:10), one must drink a Revi'is of both the first and second wines. According to the OHR LE'TZION, if one only drank a "Melo Lugmav" (a cheek-full) of wine, he may recite the blessing. Ashkenazim are lenient and do not require a minimum amount of wine to be consumed, since the Mishnah Berurah makes no mention of it but, to the contrary, implies that the blessing is recited for the new *taste* of wine, and thus any amount is sufficient. This is the ruling of Rav Feinhandler in TESHUVOS AVNEI YASHPEH.

(c) The other people who join him in drinking must actually own the wine together with him. Family members are automatically considered partners in the wine (because one is obligated to support them). If one distributes single cups of wine to his guests, they are *not* considered to have a share in the wine. However, if one brings the bottle of wine to the table, and the guests are free to pour for themselves, then they are considered to have a share in the wine. (Mishnah Berurah 175:15)

(d) Some of the original wine must remain. If the first wine was finished, ha'Tov v'ha'Meitiv may not be recited, because it is not evident that the second wine is being brought in order to express praise to Hashem for the better wine or for the abundance of wine, but because the first wine ran out. (Mishnah Berurah 175:3)

(e) One does not recite the blessing ha'Tov v'ha'Meitiv on a cup of wine used for Birkas ha'Mazon, because one already said the blessing ha'Tov v'ha'Meitiv in Birkas ha'Mazon itself. (Mishnah Berurah 175:2)

(f) If one has both wines in the house at the time one recites a blessing on the first wine, one should recite the blessing on the *better* wine (that is, if one knows which one is better), and exempt the second wine, since one is supposed to recite a blessing on the best and highest quality food first.

The REMA (175:1) rules that ha'Tov v'ha'Meitiv may be recited only if the second, better wine was not at the table (or in the house -- LECHEM CHAMUDOS on our Sugya) at the time the blessing for the first wine was said. If both wines were at the table, then one should recite Borei Pri ha'Gafen on the better wine, eliminating the need for ha'Tov v'ha'Meitiv. (If one inadvertently recited the blessing on the worse wine, or did not know which was better, then the simple understanding is that one *may* recite ha'Tov v'ha'Meitiv on the second, better wine. See, however, the next paragraph).

Rav Yitzchak Rubin (MIZMOR L'SODAH, p. 73) points out that the Levush (cited in Mishnah Berurah 175:4) understands the Rema differently, and offers an entirely different reason for the blessing of ha'Tov v'ha'Meitiv: since wine is so significant, a second wine that is brought to the table deserves its own blessing. Since one already recited Borei Pri ha'Gefen on the first wine, he cannot recite that blessing again on the second. Therefore, the Sages instituted that we say ha'Tov v'ha'Meitiv. Consequently, if a person has both wines in front of him (*or in his house and he knows about it*, according to the Lechem Chamudos) when he says Borei Pri ha'Gafen, the original blessing is considered to have been said on both wines and therefore no second blessing needs to be recited on the second wine (even if he inadvertently recited the blessing on the worse wine).

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